Me & My Money

Saving with specific goals in mind

Venture capitalist invests most of his wealth into building his firm, but also saves to achieve targets

Mr Amit Anand, co-founder of venture capital firm Jungle Ventures, with his wife Prajakta Anand. As a venture capitalist, Mr Anand says he is particularly interested in digital start-ups that have the potential to become regional or global category leaders in retail, financial services and other industries. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Venture capitalist Amit Anand earned his first pay cheque as a 15-year-old selling tuk tuks during a summer job in Mumbai - a modest venture but one that helped sharpen his financial skills.

His money sense was honed further over the years by observing the thrifty habits of his parents.

"My parents' generation grew up in extremely modest conditions but that created a platform for my generation to have the choice and freedom to pursue our passion," he adds. "I value money a lot today because I have seen my parents sacrifice so much to ensure that we had the best possible resources available for us."

His father was a mechanical engineer while his mother worked on initiatives from home to support the family financially, including giving tuition and sewing winter clothes for family and friends. Mr Anand has an older sister.

Mr Anand, 40, graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology, India, in 1998.

In 2000, he came to Singapore as a product specialist at Elipva, which provides e-business solutions. He worked for companies such as Tata Infotech and Nasdaq-listed Progress Software until 2006, when he founded Ettamina Studios, which focused on creating original animation and gaming content for global audiences.

Mr Amit Anand, co-founder of venture capital firm Jungle Ventures, with his wife Prajakta Anand. As a venture capitalist, Mr Anand says he is particularly interested in digital start-ups that have the potential to become regional or global category leaders in retail, financial services and other industries. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

He and his family invested about US$1 million into the business over the three-year period, but the firm was sold in 2009 at a loss of about $2 million to $3 million.

In 2012, he co-founded venture capital firm Jungle Ventures with friend and mentor Anurag Srivastava. "We have since grown it to over 20 investing and operating professionals from all over the world and manage slightly over US$150 million (S$197 million) in assets," he adds.

Mr Anand serves as board director in a number of businesses that Jungle Ventures has invested in, such as PaySense, Livspace, TradeGecko, Pomelo Fashion and Tookitaki. The Indian national is married to artist Prajakta Anand, 40. They have no children.

Q How did you get interested in investing?

A In 2010, I started to explore the venture capital (financing start-ups) space and was immediately intrigued and excited by the landscape. What fascinated me was that it is very similar to building a company but with economies of scale.

At any given moment, you are actively helping build several companies that could be challenging existing monopolies or creating path-breaking innovations that will change humanity for the better.

I often tell my family that I couldn't have designed a better job for myself. It gives me immense satisfaction in playing a part and helping entrepreneurs as they try and actualise their own potential.

Jungle Ventures was started with approximately $250,000 of operating capital commitment and $1.5 million investible capital from my co-founder and partner Anurag Srivastava. It invests in technology start-ups from emerging regions such as South-east Asia and India, and helps them become regional or global category leaders.

We are typically the first institutional investors and work closely with the founders in developing their leadership team, go-to-market plans and corporate activities such as fund raising.

  • Worst and best bets

  • Q What has been your biggest investing mistake?

    A My philosophy in life is to never look back except to carry forward lessons from both my successes and failures. I don't think that there are mistakes, but lessons to be learnt.

    Over the last seven years, the overall loss of capital for my company is less than 1 per cent of our total (assets under management).

    One of the biggest lessons for me has been the importance of listening to your inner voice. In my experience, I typically know within one meeting whether I would like to invest in someone.

    Most of our diligence from there onwards is to provide more data to support or challenge that judgment.

    I have seen limited success with investments where I invested against my initial read of the situation.

    Q What is your best investment decision?

    A We are long-term capital partners to the start-up founders, and we mostly exit when the start-up issues shares via an initial public offering or is sold.

    One of our first investments (not travelmob) was also one of our first exits, which generated handsome returns for our investors. More importantly, the team continued to scale the business under the acquirer and within three years ended up creating a business that grew 50 to 60 times. It gave me immense pleasure and satisfaction to have played a small part in enabling creation of such a large and valuable enterprise here in Asia.

    Most of our exits have generated over 200 per cent internal rate of returns and 3.5 times return on capital for our investors.

    Lorna Tan

Usually managing partners have to collectively invest 1 per cent to 2 per cent of every fund they raise. The specific percentage split among managing partners is confidential information.

To date, we have invested in over 40 start-ups and have had four exits, almost one exit per year.

Q Describe your investing strategy.

A One of the most important lessons that I learnt during my Kauffman Fellowship in the United States in 2015 was about building successful relationships. It takes at least 20 hours of intimate time with someone to really know the person. This has been one of my litmus tests guiding my decision whether to invest.

I would spend a substantial amount of time trying to understand the people I am investing in, and once I have made a decision to invest, I still hold my decision for two to three days. During this period, if I wake up more excited than the previous day, then I go ahead with the decision. Eventually I want to work with people who inspire me as much as I can help them.

Q Elaborate on how you pick the start-ups that your firm invests in?

A Each investment decision is usually dependent on the team, market sizing and business model, traction and exit potential considerations.

We always try and look for teams that are not only good but have also demonstrated ability to hire and retain high-quality talent. This is important as once you cross the early stages, you'll need to depend on your team to scale the business and most start-up founders struggle at this stage.

This is one of the reasons we have a team of leadership development and executive hiring experts that help our portfolio companies.

One of our first investments and exits was in a company called travelmob (acquired by HomeAway in 2013). Travelmob was probably the fifth or sixth start-up we met that was trying to capture the opportunity of creating a platform for South-east Asian consumers to get access to alternative accommodation such as vacation rentals or homestays.

As soon as we met the team, we realised that they were the perfect team to build this business as they already had good insights from their experience in the region from previous stints at Skype and Yahoo.

They were also very good at building the next level of team and had a lot of exciting talent that was eager to work with them.

Travelmob became the only company from South-east Asia that succeeded in their space. They were acquired by HomeAway (which was eventually acquired by Priceline) within two years of our investment to help scale their Asia business. From what I understand, the business has grown by over 50 to 60 per cent after acquisition.

Q What does money mean to you?

A Having money provides me with the flexibility of choice. When you are presented with that choice, more often than not you will be able to make decisions that will fulfil your purpose in life and give you immense satisfaction.

Q What are your immediate investment plans?

A The digital landscape is at an inflection point and brings along a wealth of opportunities. The emergence and rise of smartphones and social media have created access to over two billion new consumers and more than 100 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across South-east Asia and South Asia.

This is going to create new categories in many industries and upend existing ones. I am excited to invest in teams that have the vision, perseverance and thoughtfulness to capture this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am particularly interested in digital start-ups that have the potential to become regional or global category leaders in retail, financial services and other industries.

We believe in a consistent investment pace and like to invest in four to five companies every year. I am most excited about business-to-business companies focusing on the SME sector.

Q What's in your portfolio?

A Most of my little personal wealth is invested into building Jungle Ventures. Also, I am a strong believer that money needs to be managed for it to grow. Over the next few years, I would start looking at investing in funds and other managed asset classes as against personally investing in stocks.

On the business side of things, at Jungle Ventures, we are heavily invested in a host of digital businesses from media start-ups such as iflix, to fashion brands such as Pomelo Fashion, to consumer lending and payments company Kredivo and Paysense.

I think one needs to save with some goals in mind. So usually I plan for goals I want to achieve every six months and save towards that.

Q How are you planning for retirement?

A My company is still very young, and much of my focus and energy is still channelled into growing the business and helping as many start-ups and SMEs as possible.

Retirement age is not something I think about actively, as long as I still feel that I have something to contribute to the company, you'll still find me in the office day in, day out.

Q Home is now...

A I prefer to rent. I live in a three-bedroom apartment in Normanton Park. However, the estate has just been sold en bloc, and I'll have to start looking for a new place very soon.

Q I drive...

A I find driving therapeutic and own a black BMW X3, my first car in Singapore.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 04, 2018, with the headline Saving with specific goals in mind. Subscribe